European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists :: Petra Gemeinboeck

4 – 10 August 2008, Rovaniemi FinlandMy participation in the second workshop as part of the European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists (e-MobiLArt) was a very successful experience and has been of great value to the development of my artistic practice, as evidenced in the following report. I’m incredibly grateful to ANAT for assisting with my travel costs.

The European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists (e-MobiLArt) is a project initiated and organised by three Universities, the University of Athens, Lapland and Applied Arts in Vienna. It has been funded with support from the CULTURE 2007 Programme of the European Union. The project is tailored around the process of creating collaborative interactive installation artworks, using multi-modal interfaces, ubiquitous computing and mobile media technologies. As such, the e-MobiLArt project aims to provide selected participants with a multicultural, interdisciplinary context that will allow them to travel, collaborate and exhibit their work. In April 2008, the curatorial committee, including Roger Malina, Nina Czegledy, Annick Bureaud, and Christiana Galanopoulou, has selected 33 participants.

The spine of the project consists of three workshops that take place in three different European countries: Greece, Finland, and Austria. In these workshops, participants are provided with necessary technical, theoretical and curatorial support to develop their collaborative work. International interdisciplinary collaboration is the central aspect of the e-MobiLArt project. During the first workshop in Athens in June 2008, the participants formed groups and started the conception of their projects. My group includes Linda Dement from Sydney, an artist working in photography, film and digital arts; Marion Traenkle, a performance artist from Amsterdam, working in the area of dance and technology; and Brigitte Pinzgau, a conceptual artist from Vienna.

The second workshop at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, provided us with the opportunity to meet again (physically) and to develop our project further, moving from its first conceptual stages to an experimental framework. In addition to many hours of group work, we had an immensely dense daily program shared between all participants, organisers and curators. The program included lectures, i.e. on Interactive Narratives by Christopher Hales (UK), Tangible Interfaces by Matti Ninimaki (FIN), and Embodiment in Interaction Design by Jussi Angesleva (DE), tutorials on MaxMSP+Jitter by Jeremy Bernstein (DE) and I-CUBE X sensors by Elliot Syniar (CAN), as well as discussions on the preparation of the exhibition at the Thessaloniki Biennale in May 2009. Our lab times, lectures, and discussions at the University of Lapland were complemented by two excursions: one to the Arctic Center and the Arctic Circle and the second, a visit to the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. The exhibition at the Arctic Center could be described as a museum specializing in the anthropology and science of the Arctic Circle. Our visit at the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, located 120 km north of the Arctic Circle, was a truly eye-opening experience. We learned about the fascinating phenomenon of Northern Lights and related geophysical research.

Process of our collaborative group work
As for our group work process, we managed to finalise the concept and began to develop the realization process. Our project, “ON TRACK” will be a mechanised, interactive, mixed-media installation, with an ordinary mop as the protagonist that will create an increasingly slippery mess in most intricately choreographed ways. The work looks at human civilisation through a lens of irony, particularly concerned with its overly complicated mechanisms and intricate procedures to produce, control, accumulate and maintain. The weeks highlight for me was our performance of a scene from the ballet Swan Lake to demonstrate the increasing deterioration of the mops intricate movement. On of our group members, Marion, is a professional dancer and also had classic dance training. Marion introduced us to the intricacies of the Swan Lake, focusing on the difficult step sequences in the scene of the “danse des petits cygnes”.

In this scene, four dancers, arms linked, perform quick, repetitive, mechanical, synchronised steps. The notion of a chain reaction that shapes this choreography also implies the fate of each of its performers; if one falls all fall. The difficulty in performing this sequence lies in the risk of one dancer erring and so causing a collapse of the whole row; error leading to error, leading to more error. Obviously, the objective of our performance was to demonstrate the difficulty in performing synchronously … and to fail. And so we did.

We concluded the week with the production and presentation of a video sketch to document our process. The video sketch, which I was responsible to edit, can be seen at:

The workshop was a great success. This intense, rare opportunity to collaborate, discuss, critique, and learn with such a diverse group of incredibly talented and experienced artists proved to be extraordinary valuable experience and will influence my artistic practice in significant ways. In addition, the theoretical, curatorial, and technical framework provides helpful insights into the planning and detailing project development issues. Finally, the travel provided me with an important opportunity to further build and participate in this artistic community and its global network.

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